In This Review

Graveyard of the Clerics: Everyday Activism in Saudi Arabia
Graveyard of the Clerics: Everyday Activism in Saudi Arabia
By Pascal Menoret
Stanford University Press, 2020, 264 pp

Typically, the smallest unit on the organizational chart of the Muslim Brotherhood is called a “family,” a close-knit group of a dozen or so adherents. Menoret reveals that in Saudi Arabia, however, there is a smaller unit still: the “car,” a group of four or five men who get together to drive around and debate piety and politics. In this fascinating account, Menoret shows that this famously despotic country has seen quite a lot of “everyday activism,” and he links much of that activism’s organization and ideology to the modernist urban planning of the last 50 years. Authorities decanted the populations of crowded cities into vast, new suburban housing tracts with modern conveniences, long straight streets, and wide sidewalks (unused, of course, in the hot local climate), in the hope that suburban living would depoliticize the citizenry. Instead, these suburbs have served to accentuate the alienation of generations of young people who have found it difficult to socialize and develop social networks outside their families. For several decades, Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, worked to fill the void, providing afterschool and summer camp programs. Today, government repression has restricted even these modest efforts at social mobilization, leaving the profoundly alienated youth of the kingdom with few places to turn.